SOURCE: National Association of Hispanic Journalists

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March 15, 2010 16:28 ET

NAHJ Calls on Mexican Officials to Protect Journalists; Urges Colleagues to Resist Being Silenced

Drug-Related Violence in Reynosa Feeds Fear, Fosters Self-Censorship

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - March 15, 2010) -  The National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls on Mexican journalists to stay the course and resist being silenced in the wake of the recent brutality in the Gulf region of Reynosa that has resulted in the recent abduction of eight journalists -- at least one of them fatal -- all believed to be linked to the drug violence that is plaguing Mexico.

The escalating violence and campaign of intimidation in Reynosa has nearly silenced the media there as journalists who fear for their lives while trying to do their jobs succumb to self censorship. Journalists lament that reporting, verifying any information, or even asking questions with any degree of safety is virtually impossible.

NAHJ joins the Committee to Protect Journalists in demanding that the Mexican government put a stop to the attacks, protect our colleagues, and investigate the latest violence that has left one journalist dead, apparently from injuries suffered in a severe beating, and four of the abducted journalists still missing.

"The drug lords target journalists because they recognize the vital role journalists serve in uncovering their barbarity and the threat to civil society and the rule of law that their cartels inflict," said O. Ricardo Pimentel, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. "Yes, everyone should be protected, but the Mexican government needs to recognize that violent acts against journalists are really directed at the pillars that uphold a just and representative government."

There has been a sharp uptick in violence in the Reynosa region as Gulf cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, fight for control and screen access to the city at checkpoints they have set up. Unlike in other Mexican cities like Ciudad Juárez where news about cartel activity still makes headlines and the media keeps a running tally of deaths as a result, the violence in the Reynosa region has nearly silenced the media there.

Citizen journalists have emerged to try to fill the void of information and use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking and video sharing sites to tell the world of the horror in which they live, contradicting local authorities who seek to downplay the violence.

NAHJ stands strong with reporters on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, who on a daily basis put their lives at risk. NAHJ also urges Mexican media organizations to unite in solidarity so that their journalists can have more of the support they need to continue to do their jobs, which in turn can keep their communities informed and their people safeguarded.

"Mexican journalists, we're certain, will continue to report, knowing well the price they can pay for such courage. And for this they have our sincere thanks," Pimentel said. "Without these tireless, dedicated professionals, the country cannot, and will not stand a chance at being totally free."

According to CPJ, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for working journalists. Forty-four journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992. CPJ investigations have found that at least 19 of them were slain in direct reprisal for their work, and another eight have disappeared since 2005. CPJ says most of those covered organized crime or government corruption.

Founded in 1984, NAHJ's mission is to increase the percentage of Latinos working in our nation's newsrooms and to improve news coverage of the Latino community. NAHJ is the nation's largest professional organization for Latino journalists with more than 1,400 members working in English and Spanish-language print, photo, broadcast and online media. NAHJ is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. For more information, visit www.nahj.org. 

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